I was reading last week a children’s book about “Secret codes”. You probably know the kind of thing I’m talking about – substituting one letter for another, or a squiggly shape for a letter, rearranging letters, and so on. Fun things to do, but not the basis of modern cryptography. However, the book didn’t just […]Continue reading
More strange quantum stuff
I have talked about some of the strange quantum mechanics effects before. An example is the two-slit experiment. If we fire photons (particles of light) at a pair of slits, and then measure where they appear on the other side of the slits, we get a two-slit diffraction pattern – exactly what we’d get if […]Continue reading
How do you teach creativity in physics?
In the last couple of weeks, I've been using Hermite Polynomials in my work. I won't go into what they are (look them up here if you like) suffice to say that they are one of many contributions to mathematics from Charles Hermite (1822-1901), who was himself one of many french mathematicians whose work has […]Continue reading
How big is an atom?
I started back at work on Monday thinking that it would be a nice, peaceful day, with no-one else around on campus. Surely, on a beautiful, sunny, 6th January, the entire of Hamilton except for myself would be on the beach at Raglan. Wow, was I mistaken. The campus was buzzing with activity and there […]Continue reading
Hawking radiation in the lab
A highlight of the recent NZ Institute of Physics conference was the Dan Walls medal talk given by Matt Visser. Matt has been working on general relativity. That's not desparately unusual for a physicist, but Matt has been successful in working on some of the crazier aspects of relativity and getting it published – wormholes, […]Continue reading
A stonking good start to our experimental physics paper. Not.
Just a couple of hours ago, I was thinking that I really need to do another blog entry for the week, but (a) can’t think what to do it on and (b) don’t have time to do it because I have a lab class for the afternoon. Well, the events in the lab class have […]Continue reading
Where in the world?
First, sorry for the lack of activity. Simply put, there’s been a lot going on. I’ve taken on the role of treasurer for the NZ Institute of Physics which has eaten up rather more time than I hoped for. I’ll get into the swing of things soon though. In that role, here is a shameless […]Continue reading
Quantum mechanics: Reality is back
With an exam imminent, I’ve had a queue of students outside my door wanting help with their quantum mechanics. This semester, they’ve come across the Schrodinger equation and the wavefunction for the first time and, unsurprisingly, some are struggling to grasp it. "But what IS the wavefunction?", they say. "How do you derive the Schrodinger […]Continue reading
Is maths real?
A friend has just started a Bachelor of Arts degree here at Waikato. As part of her first year study, she’s chosen to do a Philosophy paper. Apparently, one of the questions that has been posed, is "Is maths real?". Well, what is real? You certainly can’t put ‘maths’ in a box and give it […]Continue reading
Experimental physics is easy on paper
Currently, down in the depths of C-building, there’s a master’s student trying to carry out the Stern-Gerlach experiment. (and also here). This is one of the classic experiments in quantum mechanics – specifically demonstrating the quantisation of angular momentum. If you look at the text books, it’s simple enough. Pass a beam of atoms through […]Continue reading